Different effects of an oral anticholinergic drug on gastroesophageal reflux in upright and supine position in normal, ambulant subjects: a pilot study

Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Apr;94(4):925-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.988_k.x.


Objective: There is controversy in the literature on the effects of anticholinergic drugs on gastroesophageal reflux. Our aim was to study more extensively the effects of an oral anticholinergic drug on esophageal motility and gastroesophageal reflux in normal ambulant subjects under different circumstances: upright, supine, fed, and fasted state.

Methods: Fifteen healthy subjects (seven men, eight women), mean age 34 yr (range, 22-61 yr) underwent randomized placebo-controlled 16-h evening and overnight ambulatory esophageal motility/pH study. After a 3-day loading dose of either oral dicyclomine (Dic) 20 mg four times daily or placebo (Pla), an ambulatory esophageal motility/pH study was performed while taking medication or placebo. Each study was analyzed for meal, first and second h postprandial, upright and supine periods, and first 2 h supine after bedtime snack.

Results: The mean number of reflux episodes decreased with dicyclomine during the first h postprandial (Dic, 1.9 vs Pla, 2.5; p < 0.05). During the first 2 h supine, mean number of reflux episodes increased with dicyclomine (Dic, 1.4 vs Pla, 0.8; p < 0.09), as did mean percent time pH < 4 (Dic, 2.6 vs Pla, 0.5; p < 0.04), with an increase in clearance time (Dic, 0.9 vs Pla, 0.3; p < 0.05; in min). Mean peristaltic amplitude decreased with dicyclomine during the 2nd h postprandial (Dic, 48.8 vs Pla, 56.3; p < 0.04).

Conclusions: Oral dicyclomine caused a decrease in early postprandial upright reflux episodes, but also significantly increased the percent time pH < 4 during the first two h supine. Therefore, its effects are dependent on body position and fasted or fed state. Our results justify additional studies with oral anticholinergic agents in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Cholinergic Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Cholinergic Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Dicyclomine / administration & dosage
  • Dicyclomine / pharmacology*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Esophagus / drug effects*
  • Esophagus / physiopathology
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Peristalsis / drug effects
  • Pilot Projects
  • Posture
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Supine Position


  • Cholinergic Antagonists
  • Dicyclomine